Reflections of an Outreach Intern
We can't be more grateful for our interns over the years. This summer, we had four interns, each of whom served the youth and learned and learned a lot in the process. One intern, Matthieu Picard, was kind enough to share his story.
"2020 has been a decidedly weird year. Everyday hugs and handshakes became foreign. Both unemployment and the stock market climbed to historic highs. The world unified in its isolation. In a string of unprecedented moves, the consulting firm I had committed to working with this summer reacted to this universal weirdness by giving all interns the option of working with a non-profit of choice. Having worked with Outreach in high school, the ministry immediately came to mind. To both create the most possible value for Outreach and tune the skills that would be helpful to my future employer, the summer would involve more than the portrait and car photography lessons of high school. I would work under Beth Hahn, the Director of Operations on a range of projects. Beth also came from the fast-paced, travel-heavy, sleep-light realm of management consulting, making her the ideal supervisor. She understood the way I thought about and attacked problems. She also related to my propensity to let work dominate my life and played a major role in ensuring that I enjoyed an abundant summer outside of Outreach. I did.
The hours spent at 2416 E New York Street were equally a joy. My desk buddy¹ was Christine, another intern from Indianapolis. Christine was quick with a joke or a random question. I must imagine that part of her role was to replace the conversation cards that sit, sparingly used, in the program center. Who else could conceive to ask for a dance move that best expresses my personality? Only Christine. The joy of seeing the conversation card used for that question as a client taught Christine, Marcie (an intern from Kansas), and me how to “floss”. There was much more laughing than dancing. I suppose if that were to be the only use of the cards all year, they would be more than worth having around.
Normal playing cards make it on to the large wood tables, too. One day, a client (we’ll call him Fern) invited me to join him and a few others in a game of Spades. Spades is a team
card game that I seem to “learn” annually so I made for a mediocre, at best, partner. Regardless, we had a blast. Half-jokingly poking fun at each other’s fumbles and talking about the future, it was simply fun. In the end, Fern held his cards up and I noticed he was missing part of his middle finger. Ownership to the fewer digit club² creates an instant bond out of mutual understanding of suffering and knowledge of the same terrible (fine, and vaguely funny) jokes. Fern and I flipped each other off as we parted ways in a proud moment of ownership of our abbreviated middle fingers. The summer was filled with moments like that, moments where the differences between interns and clients took the back seat to the given connection of youth.
The difference was hard to ignore, however. Recently a friend and Outreach client was shot. To be shot is not in the realm of feasibility for a kid from the Patagonia and Lulu touting ‘burbs north of 465. Neither is exchanging sex for stable shelter. Neither is raising a child
before 25 and its accompanying career advancement. The uncertainty around the future surrounds the possibility of Ivy-league acceptance, not eviction. It’s hard not to feel guilty for the privileges inherent to being born into the upper-middle class. In the same sense, it’s hard
not to feel like the work at Outreach matters very much. And it does. I had the sense that each project had some role in rectifying the situations of Outreach clients, and therefore, was a mission of utmost importance. To reorganize the donation storage room with lean principles was to fight for justice. To research national best practices for a HUD grant was to battle inequity. To deliver food was to challenge cyclical poverty. Even jumping around the library of a DJ software, looking for clean music to mix in the program center had a missional underpinning. What a joy!
Interning with Outreach has provided a fresh appreciation for the non-profit world. The idealism purported by corporations’ mission webpages can be met in earnest by the mission of a non-profit. It can be met without having to stretch how you see the organization, without having to ignore the quarterly demands of shareholders. But the world of the quarterly shareholder is the one I am barreling towards. And by the grace of God, there’s peace in this. Consulting firms are mission fields, too. The skills learned (and compensation accrued) in the boardrooms can support the mission of Outreach and other non-profits. There’s no doubt Outreach taught many skills for the boardrooms. For one thing, reorganizations like the one seen by Outreach in July were felt across the country in March and April. I learned to expect more staff to start new paths after many have been let go. I also witnessed incredible communication and ownership from the CEO as well as extreme resilience from the organization as youth came pouring in after the downsizing. Seeing the staff that introduced and welcomed me to Outreach high school be sent in a new direction because of the organization’s financial hardship was painful. I’m just grateful there was still balance sheet strength to support needed severance packages.
In trials like those, the value of Outreach’s Christian roots and ability to trust completely in Christ for the future prove vital. It was so encouraging to have weekly staff devotionals, complete with unrushed Monday morning pauses when the staff was asked for reactions on the devotional. For Beth to pray in our weekly check-ins was deeply refreshing. A stake of divine solidity amidst a decidedly weird year."
If you or someone you know is interested in an internship at Outreach, visit https://www.outreachindiana.org/internships.
¹Desk buddy may not be the right term since we each had our own desk… and adjustable standing desk at that! ²I like to think I coined the name of this unenviable and not-yet-existent club that could include Rahm Emanuel and Matthew Perry